Sunday, May 3, 2015

DAY 13



It was just an overnight stay at Phan Lan Hotel in Ho Chi Min City. It was a friendly hotel down a little lane of similar small establishments. All narrow and similar height providing 20 or so rooms.

I got up around 5:30 am to start typing but also decided to make a cup of tea in my travel cup using a new very fast in cup element. Got into typing and forgot I had the water heating. Suddenly I looked up and into the bathroom where my cup was in flames. I was using a electric socket in the bathroom and the cup was on the basin. Action! Unplug and grab the handle and get under the tap and run water to deal with the flames. Result – no damage, but a useless cup with a hole in it and a heating element in melted pieces. Pity about my much traveled cup though.

Breakfast at 8:30 am was a thin omelet, baguette, banana, half cup of orange juice and half cup coffee. A fairly standard breakfast in S.E. Asian hotels of the level I stay in.

We had booked a couple of taxis to take us to the airport and right on time they were at the roadside ready for us. Modern Hondas. We moved at speed through a variety of side streets, back streets and main roads. The driver insensately sounding the horn to warn vehicles he was passing or to encourage them to move aside – which they never did. But we made good time and arrived at the Domestic terminal where the largest crowds were in the budget airline area – Jetstar Pacific and Vietjet and another I think.

We walked across to the International terminal looking for a SIM card for Phil's phone which we got. He was then able to clear his emails and found one from Jetstar telling us our plane would depart one hour late. By this stage though I had found that my SIM which I bought last night was no longer picking up the Internet although calls still worked but not texting. Strange. Another issue were the steady stream of adverts texted in in Vietnamese. Every time I tried to do something on the phone an advert would interrupt. Rubbish said a local.

Check in took time and Becky had to sign a wavier form taking responsibility for me because of my mental and physical state. Why? Who knows. Age perhaps? What ever the reason, we all had a good laugh about it and I have the form as a souvenir. My bag was 15kgs.

Loading was by the get on a bus and be taken to the plane system – packed standing in bus, mad rush to the stairs to get up to the plane. Loaded from both ends so confusion for some trying to get on at the wrong end. Much to my surprise there was enough overhead locker space.

Flight was around two hours with the time filled in by staff sellin g meals, snacks and toys. I still have a difficulty with the apparently high prices. In reality my coffee (local 3 in 1) and a cookie at 25,000 Dong is really a little over $US1.00 and last nights Indian curry at 163,000Dong was under $US10, more like $US8.

Landing at Hanoi was a bit bumpy coming down through the clouds. By the time we had been bused into the terminal our luggage was on the conveyor waiting for us. Well some was and the remainder followed. Fastest delivery I ever have come across.

A man with a sign reading Rebekah Sussex was at the exit and in no time we were in the pre booked hotel van, rather than a couple ot more expensive taxis, heading for the city. We travelled along a modern four lane highway passing m]alternatively rice paddy fields housing and large factories and industrial complexes. One very large Panasonic collection of buildings which I assumed was a manufacturing plant. We passed over a very wide river which was most likely the Red River.

After that we came into the city proper passing rather fascinating houses of a real mixture of styles and designs. They all tended to be very narrow, one room wide and several stories high. Quite cute and some looked as if they came right our of some children's story book.

Once we left the highway and merged into normal crowded streets we had arrived at the Old Quarter, where our hotel, the Holiday Hotel, was located along with many others. Same narrow building with several floors and no elevator. I respect of my age it seems I have been relocated from the fifth floor to the second and into what the call the VIP room. Main feature is it is a bit larger and has a sofa and coffee table along with a double bed. Very friendly and helpful staff. Free wi fi and surprisingly my phone has started to pick up Internet even without the free wi fi. Perhaps my card has solved its issues? Time will tell. Still no Face Book though. I really do think it is blocked here.

We wandered up the road a few minutes to a little restaurant called Gekko for a meal. We thought it was cute and were later surprised to find an identical one around the corner. Perhaps it is a chain? Children had pizza,although Molly chose Pumpkin soup, adults were more adventurous with my having prawn and vegetable in coconut cream and supposedly cooked in a clay pot although it was not served in it. Then a slow walk around the block and back to the hotel for an early night.

Our hotel is down this street. Some of the narrow houses, but not the prettiest.

Day 13

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

DAY 12

Sunday 29th June 2014

Hello from Vietnam!

First time I have every been able to say that.

Tomorrow, I plan to start the day with “Good Morning Vietnam!” Nothing original I know and it has probably been said a million time.

But that is tomorrow. What about today?

The day started with a 6:10 am alarm for me although Phil and Becky were already up, to do last minute packing. The two tuk tuks arrived right on time at 7:30am and amazingly managed seven passengers and all the luggage. We were were at the bus departure office by 5 to 8 am. For office imaging something smaller that an a NZ garage. Many of the passengers were already sitting on chairs outside waiting. We past our passports over for checking and around 8:15 boarding began.

Bus was quite comfortable and full. I had an aisle seat with a Cambodian lady next to me. What she lacked in English she made up for by almost non stop chatter toher friends in the seats behind.

The trip took around 6 ½ hours including 25 minutes lunch break (pork and noodle soup at $2) and a bit longer than that going through the boarder controls for both countries. Fairly relaxed process, just longish waits. The bus announcer was careful to always say “The Kingdom Of Cambodia and the Republic of Vietnam” The bus had a driver (of course) the woman hostess and announcer and a young male who didn't seem to have any real job. Besides announcing the hostess also gave out moist tissues, bottle water and the snack box (sweet cake and cheese crusant um spell check not a help there ).

The main road had a few bumps but was pretty good for Cambodia. It was Street 1 is the main highway, but only a single lane in either direction. It was pretty crowded with in Phnom Penh but less so once the city.was left behind. The driver was constantly sounding his horn as that is the customary means of informing a vehicle ahead that you were going to pass them.

While we did travel through rural areas some of the time, usually we were passing farm houses, hamlets, villages and through small towns. Some of the farm land looked quite scruffy but other areas were much more attractive. The above is true of our travel through both countries.

On the bus the television played a feature film 'Fast and Furious 6' quite a lot of Candid Camera type ex television programmes and local karaoke and some sort of comedy show. We were not actually bored, but not actually interested either.

About half way we crossed the wide Mekong River by ferry boat. There were a couple doing shuttle service across the river, so we didn't have to wait very long to drive onto it.

The Cambodian side had a dozen or so casinos to catter for the Vietnam day tripers.

The roads on the Vietnam side are much better. We drove along a highway with double lanes on both sides of a centre median strip which was either a wall or often rows of shrubs and low trees.

It didn't take too long to reach Ho Chi Min City aka Saigon. Many of the streets are tree lined, there is a pleasant path along the river running through the central area. We spotted a number of people fishing along the banks.

Streets are just as crowded as Phnom Penh, but there are more modern stylish buildings. The bus destination was a stop beside a large park area between two busy roads. Looked quite pretty as we drove along beside it in the rain.

Our hotel, Phan Lan Hotel was down a hotel, guest house and hostel filled lane diagonally across the road from our bus stop. Perfect arranging. Hotel gave us a good welcome and is quite small, five floors with just three rooms on each floor. Obviously, the building is quite narrow. No elevator but they have a hoist to bring the bags up to the room. That's good as I am on fourth floor, the boys on fifth floor and the girls and parents on third floor.

While the others went off to the war surplus market near by to buy the boys a few bags and pouches, I went off in search of a SIM card. Plenty being sold in the area as this is a tourist and back packers area. I just chose a stall where the lady could sell them but tell you nothing. The price quoted varied and in the end I paid nothing like any quote for the card and a top up which may or may not be unlimited data for a month. Her son tried to help, then a motor scooter friend who knwe what he was doing but not good English. Finally a young woman arrived who could translate for them.

I did some wander around the area near the hotel even though it was raining at that point. Got lots of cyclo drivers wanting to provide their services, lots of invitations into bars and restaurants usually by young women standing at the door and one offer of a certain weed.

We met up again and went off for a family meal together. We only needed to go around the corner from the hotel for a large choice. We checked out a couple Vietnamese restaurants as the country is know for its lovely food – but we went Indian and that was a good choice as the food was delicious.

I must remember to give Phil 163,000 dong as my share of the bill. I think this is somewhere around $10.

DAY 11

Saturday 28th June 2014


The day began as normal until Becky was taking a basket of washing out to the laundry, which is a shed attached to the back of the house. As she opened the door she sort of jumped and gasped. On the floor in front of here was a dark coloured snake. It was between the door and the base of the washing machine.

I happened to be there and can afirm that she did not scream. She was surprised however, we both were. Having decided the snake was dead, there were a few ants crawling over its tail, the thing becane to move.

So doing the sensible thing she went and got Phil to sort it out. He came with a few implements such as a spade and a long stick to get it out of the shed and onto the path. Then while Becky held it down just behind its neck, form a distance with the long stick, Phil rushed inside and returned with an axe.

Phil will now go down in family history, not as a dragon slayer, but as a snake slayer. He is now 'Phil the executioner'.

The event proved an exciting start to the day for everybody who was awake and up. That's everyone except one who slept through the whole exciting moments.We assume that the snake had managed to find its way through a hole in the back wall. On the other side is a large area of undeveloped waste land. It is an area where the children have been building a play area with old bricks and building waste. I suspect they will give it a miss for a while now.

The rest of the day was an anti-climax after that.

Becky and I took Molly across town to the meeting point with a little friend from school. It was a half way point between the two homes. It did involve driving through a few kilometres of heavy slow moving congested traffic. Then after the drop off, Becky had to do a U turn through several lanes of traffic to head back home. It was a manouver which one only does in Phnom Penh where it is and accepted process and where the drivers in both directions let you through.

Preparations for the trip to Vietnam took our attention for the rest of the day.



Americano strong $3

Cafe Mocha $3.50

Cafe Latte Medium $3

Iced Orange and Pineapple juice $3

You may begin to think that all we do in Phnom Penh is to go out for coffee and your brunch. This is not true, but my being there is a good excuse to try a few places out. The city has an ever changing range of cafes and restaurants, so there is always somewhere new to try out.

This one opened in January and is run by a friendly Korean woman with quite good English. We had a chat for a while as there was no other customers and I had a look at their professional roasting set up. I was also interested in the drip system they had for providing a coffee syrup for their iced coffees. The can also do single origin blends. Very advanced for Cambodia, but I am sure that with the speed things are changing here that others will quickly follow.

Becky decided that the latte which was served in a tulip cup was a good match for a flat white. I decided that my Americano strong was no match for a Long Black, but may have been a good example of Americano.

Actually we dropped in for the coffee after we had been to iONE. This is the Apple computer agency in Cambodia and they have recently relocated their service department to a flash new multi story block on one of the busy main roads near the centre of town. We had to drop off an iPad which needed a new screen following an accidental drop a couple of days earlier. The can not or do not replace the screen. Rather they send the unit to Apple in Singapore who replace it with an identical new unit. The cost of this will be little more than what a screen replacement could be assumed to cost. They will hold the replacement until we return from Vietnam. All seemed to be a very organised process.

One of the things that interests me staying here is the way in which the grandchildren all have various activities and personal projects which they can quietly settle down to. Bryn has spent much of hare time designing and cutting out a leather holster for his survival knife. Pippa decided to rearrange and tidy her room, involved shifting furniture as well. And they all have books to read as well. Meanwhile Becky checked out accommodation prices for Hanoi for our stay next week. Of course a lot to look at even in our budget price range. Amazing how much tax and a service charge can bump up the room cost. In the end we decided on a place to stay and have the rooms confirmed.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

S E Asia Travels 2014 continued

Tuesday 24th June 2014.

It was an 'at home' morning with  my youngest granddaughter's  school friend  coming to play. She lives with her parents in a village about an hour away in a rice growing rural area. The two girls were both pretty excited to be together as it was the first time that they had been able to get together like this. When her mother came to collect her I had a chance to chat to her about the work she is involved in. She is part of an organization which focuses on bringing safe water systems to the rural villages. This includes rain water collection and filtering. They also have a concrete toilet unit with septic tank. All of this is tied in with hygiene education. It all sounded very worthwhile.

During the afternoon my daughter  her daughters, Pippa and I drove to the Hope International Christian School, to choose some books from the Primary school library. I was interested to see how much the junior school has expanded since I was last here two years ago.

We then drove a kilomtre of two to the Savvana Shopping Centre. First was to recharge the data part of my SMART sim card. They have a scheme that you purchase a pre-pay $2 top up and then phone in to SMART Exchange to convert it into $30 data credit. An amazing idea which Becky and Phil use all the time – and why not. Unfortunately, after the assistants had tried all sorts of ways to get my phone done like this, they realised that I had a traveller's promotion SIM and SMART Exchange would not work. So I paid and extra $1 and got a traveller's 1GB of data. I do not plan to upload any other videos to You Tube before we head off to Vietnam on Sunday. So 1 GB should be enough. I am using my phone as a wifi hot spot to link my laptop into.

Meanwhile, my daughter and the girls headed up to the third floor to the ceramic painting centre. The girls each bought a shape which they then painted at the work benches. They certainly enjoyed the activity and ended up with a couple of results they were especially proud of. 

Then it was off to the Apple service centre to see if they could replace the shattered screen of a iPad. Seems the answer is no, but they can sell a replacement at a reduced price. We just need to work out how to back up the files to somewhere safe, when your Apple cloud storage is full. Now that's going to occupy us for a few hours tonight.

At Savanna, I checked out the DVD store but it was so congested that I decided not to bother hunting anything out. I have bought quite a number of disks here on previous visits. After visiting the new Aeon Mall on Saturday, this older shopping centre certainly looked a little tired. We did drop into the Lucky Supermarket on the ground floor where I discovered a bottle of French red wine labled Cuvee Laurence. Of course I just had to buy this to try out during the week. 

There was the usual mid to late afternoon rainfall with some wind. Temperatures seem to be a little lower today and conditions are much more bearable.

Finally spotted one of the ghekos which live around the outside of the house. But this one was in Toby's room and looked like it came through a small corner gap. It was about 300 mm long and a pale pastle green. During the night these creatures make loud calling noises. On my first night here I thought that the sound must have been some weird clock chiming the hours; until I tried to count the chimes and found more than 12 in a row. They are surprisingly loud for such a small creature.

Across the lane is the home and workshop of an undertaker. This morning a tuk tuk arrived with planking for coffins stacked up on it. The undertaker has a funeral tuk tuk parked out front. It has a construction like an enclosed garden shed built on it. Highly colourful with decorations of a Buddhist style all around it.

Put a new video up on You Tube. During the process my phone hotspot ran out of data credit with only 86% of the up loading completed. A few hours later when I returned with a recharged phone the up load continued without any difficulties. Something new learned. This morning my You Tube views total clocked in at 8,754.


DAY 6 Monday 23rd June 2014

Today's main activity was a trip into the central area of Phnom Penh for lunch at Wills Brunch Cafe. I had been here on a previous visit when it was under different management as The Lounge I think it was called. Some changes and a different menu. Nice coffee. And the food fine as well. I did notice that having a second shot in the $US2.25 long black, cost me and extra 75 US cents. Which pretty much brought it up towards NZ prices.
Nice air conditioning and fast free wi fi, so I was able to load a video up to You Tube very quickly.


Becky used the time to check out accommodation in Ho Chi Min City for Sunday night. She used Trip Advisor and I checked on Hostelworld. Interesting to note that we were getting cheaper prices for the same sites through Trip Advisor. It looks like we have booked into a small boutique hotel very close to where our bus ride from Cambodia will end up at. It was good to have that sorted out. One four bed room, one twin and a single room all confirmed. All a bit different and more complicated to my normal booking of a single room.
\ No doubt about it but the grandchildren are certainly very confident with being out in a cafe. Ever keen Toby works on his video editing.

Then it was off to Monument Books again to purchase a Vietnam guidebook that I had checked out last time. Of course the grandchildren made a beeline to their favourite section for a quick read.

I enjoy travelling around the streets of Phnom Penh. There is always so much to see, with tuk tuks rushing along with all sorts of loads, not just passengers, there are equally interesting loads on motor cycle powered flat trailers. Then there are the thousands of motor scooters with combinations of loads and riders, up to four on a bike seems common.
Then there are the road side stalls and tiny shops we pass and always there are labourers at work. Interesting.

I am beginning to work out directions again and the streets around the house are becoming more familiar. As are the streets I learn from previous visits. The problen is just that I have not yet connected the two, so I have the this gap in the middle.
The usual afternoon downpour came and mostly went. But the heavy clouds hastened the arrival of darkness. It was pretty much night by 5:45 pm. Phil had been working in a village clinic over an hour away on the city edge and had a long often damp ride back in the darkness. He got back after 7:30 pm.
There was a chance to watch another episode of The Midwife on DVD before bedtime.